So you’ve decided to start a foundation. Now what? A great question that a mission statement can answer.
Mission statements define what will guide your foundation, fuel its passions, set a direction and articulate the impact you want to make. In effect, you’re telling a story albeit a very short one. But it needs to be compelling all the same.
Foundation Source, which provides outsourced management services to foundations, says having a clear mission can:
- Express the founder’s intentions for future generations
- Ensure board members know what the foundation intends to accomplish
- Provide a reference point that discourages mission drift
- Let other funders know how they can collaborate with you
- Shield the foundation from being deluged by grant requests from every organization
In other words, the mission statement needs to be more than an afterthought. It’s a roadmap for board members and the world at large. You have a goal. The mission statement tells you how it can be reached. As a trustee at one foundation noted, mission statements are a “declaration – and an affirmation – of a positive course in an imperfect world. By putting them out there, we are taking a stand on behalf of a better future.”
So, what makes for a good mission statement? Think short, simple, specific, and jargon-free. By setting up guideposts for what you want the foundation to accomplish, the better you can attract the right pool of potential grantees and receive proposals on point with what you want to fund. No need to be all things to all people.
Guided by our Jewish values, we support effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in our core areas of interest: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community; fostering a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.
The mission of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation is to enrich humanity by strengthening and empowering children and families in need. While remaining flexible in our approach, we give priority to: providing for the needs of and ensuring the future of the Jewish people and respecting our legacy and commitment to the Detroit community.
Some foundations will also have a separate vision statement, which conveys their goals and reason for being. In such instances, the mission statement is used to articulate how the foundation will realize that vision and perhaps identify the populations it will target and any cities, regions or countries it will focus on.
For example, the Foundation for Jewish Camp has this mission:
The Foundation for Jewish Camp unifies and galvanizes the field of Jewish overnight camp and significantly increases the number of children participating in transformative summers at Jewish camp, assuring a vibrant North American Jewish community.
But then expands upon those ideas with a vision statement:
Summers at Jewish overnight camp turn Jewish youth into spirited and engaged Jewish adults, laying the groundwork for strong Jewish communities. The Foundation for Jewish Camp aspires to elevate the field of Jewish camp, conferring proper recognition and granting appropriate support to expand its impact across our community, so that camp can be a critical element of every Jewish young person's education.
Whether you choose to create a separate vision statement or fold it into your mission statement is a matter of personal preference. Whatever you decide, though, the statement should lend credibility to your foundation, motivate and increase the number of supporters and help ensure that you are meeting the goals that inspired you to establish the foundation in the first place.
- Article: How to Write a Nonprofit Mission Statement That Isn’t Boring, Nonprofit.About.com
- A Primer on Crafting Your Foundation’s Mission, Foundation Source
- Article: What Should A Mission Statement Say? Idealist
- Booklet: The Mission Statement, BoardSource
- Website: MissionStatements.com, a compendium of mission statements from a variety of organizations, including nonprofits.